World Team TT C'ships: Koreas unify to field a single team

People's Democratic Republic of Korea and Korea Republic, slated to play each other in the quarterfinals, shake hands to move into the semifinals of the World Team Table Tennis Championships together.

The unified Korean table tennis delegation at Halmstad, Sweden. Photo: Rémy Gros/ittf.com.

In a landmark gesture on the heels of a historic political moment, People's Democratic Republic of Korea and Korea Republic have decided to field a single team in the ongoing World Team Table Tennis Championships in Halmstad, Sweden.

Delegation of the two nations discussed the possibility of unification alongside the International Table Tennis Federation, ahead of their quarterfinal contest against each other. According to ittf.com, the two teams did not relish the prospect of taking each other on in the competition.

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The teams, through to the semifinals via mutual contest, will now take on either Japan or Ukraine on Friday.

According to a statement from the International Table Tennis Federation, “both teams requested that they want to form a unified Korean team to compete together in the semi-final, which will be held 4th of May at 11:00 am against either Japan or Ukraine.”

'Standing ovation'

International Table Tennis Federation president Thomas Weikert underlined the significance of the decision. “When I informed the Board of Directors about this development, the Unified Team received a standing ovation from the delegates who showed their sign of support for this historic move,” he was quoted as saying by ittf.com.

Ju Jong Chol, the president of the Table Tennis Association of the People's Democratic Republic of Korea, said, “This is the result of the strong support provided by the ITTF and [International Olympic Committee]. We will do our best to get more successful results internationally in a joint effort between North and South Korea.”

Korea Republic's Ryu Seungmin, an IOC member and former Olympic medallist also applauded the decision.

The political thaw between the nations has been growing significantly through the last few months. Earlier this year, the two Koreas marched together under a single flag in the Winter Olympics at Pyeongchang, and last week, People's Democratic Republic of Korea leader Kim Jong-un became the first head of state from that country to step into Korea Republic.